Sober Friends Support Your Recovery. A How-To Guide to Making Sober Friends and Building a Healthy Support Network
So you’re serious about your recovery and that means limiting contact with the people you used to use or drink with…
Unfortunately, that probably eliminates a good chunk of your social network!
But though you probably used or drank with some great people, drug/drink friendships tend to revolve around the experience of using and don’t generally deepen to the same extent as sober friendships.
So though you’ll probably really miss some of these people, you also have a great opportunity to start building truer friendships.
Good friends play an invaluable role in the recovery process.
- If you’ve got sober friends to support your progress then thank your lucky stars (and nurture those friendships to make up for your behaviors in the past)
- If getting sober means cutting off most (or all) of your old friends, you need to make finding new friends a priority. Good friends can keep you walking the right path, but more than just this – you don’t get sober to survive, you get sober to thrive, and you can’t thrive without a few good friends to share the fun with.
How to Make Sober Friendships
Most people have an easier time making friends when they come in contact with the same group of people on a regular basis, over a significant period of time (like at school, or in a workplace). This allows for a very natural and gradual deepening of relationships.
But if you have trouble making friends or if you no longer meet up with the same groups of people on a regular basis (no longer in school or in an office) then you have to expend a little effort to create the friendships that once came very naturally.
Here’s how to get started making sober friendships.
Get Involved with a Community Support Group
This one’s a no-brainer.
Not only does research show that people who stay involved with community support groups (like AA or NA) stay abstinent longer, these groups are also great places to meet people who’ve gone through similar experiences, share similar goals (staying sober) and have similar needs (new sober friends).
Groups can vary a great deal, so it’s a good idea to try a bunch out until you find a group that seems to meet your needs – and once you do, go often, go early, stay late, volunteer to be of service and work up your nerve and talk to anyone who seems interesting…
You’ll almost certainly make friends.
Create Social Routines
Friendships tend to develop over time, as we see the same people in the same types of situations over and over again. (See research on propinquity1 - how we tend to become friends with the people who live closest.)
Therefore, if you don’t establish routines, and you rarely see the same people in the same places, you’ll have a tough time making new friends.
As an example, if you decided you wanted to go to the gym 5 days a week, you’d have a much better chance of making a friend by going to the same gym every day than by going to 5 different gyms per week – and you’d further increase your odds of friendship by going at the same time each day (and interacting with more of the same people) rather than going randomly around the clock.
You can make strong friendships by working together with other people toward a shared goal – especially when it’s a goal that everyone feels passionate about.2
Don’t Turn Down Social Offers
OK – you don’t have to accept every offer that comes along but there’s a danger to turning down too many…people might stop asking you out to things entirely.
You’re trying to make friends, so accept that invitation to the ballet/church/poetry reading/yoga class…how bad could it be? And once you’ve gone and done it, reciprocate by suggesting another outing to enjoy.
Don’t Wait for Other People to Always Suggest Activities or Outings
Don’t be so shy…!
The best friendships are balanced and involve a lot of give and take. If you’re not initiating contact about half the time and not suggesting about half of all get-togethers you’re probably missing out on about half of what your friendship could be.
And worse, if you never suggest anything you can send an inadvertent message of disinterest in the relationship.
When you’re drinking or using drugs, getting together takes little effort or planning (how hard is it to see the same guy at a bar every night?) but sober friendships take a little more effort and nurturing. Fortunately, you get out far more than you put in!
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